Sportopedia Glossary

Athlete Neglect

Athlete Neglect

Athlete Neglect, a form of athlete maltreatment, refers to a lack of reasonable care, and an all-round deprivation of attention that has the potential to cause harm (Glaser, 2002; Iwaniec, 2003). General agreement exists that deficits in nurturing, meeting a young person’s basic needs, and well-being constitute neglect (Crooks & Wolfe, 2007). Neglect can occur through acts of commission and omission and results from a pattern of behavior (American Humane Association, 1980; Matthews, 2004). Of all forms of maltreatment, neglect has been the least researched in both the general child development (Miller-Perrin & Perrin, 2007) and in sport contexts (Stirling, 2009). Although numerous typologies exist to identify behaviors that constitute neglect, agreement exists that neglect exists in various forms, such as physical, educational, emotional, and social neglect (Miller-Perrin & Perrin, 2007). A typology applicable to sport was proposed by Stirling (2009) using these categories. Physical neglect in sport may include refusing an athlete water during training, or playing a concussed athlete against medical advice. By frequently removing an athlete from school, such that he or she cannot meet the specified requirements, educational neglect may result. Emotional neglect may be represented by such behaviors as ignoring or rejecting athletes when their performances do not meet expectations or denying an athlete psychological counseling for eating disorders. Social neglect in sport may be represented by such behaviors as continually excluding an athlete from team events, prohibiting an athlete from having social relationships outside of sport, or encouraging an athlete to cause harm to an opponent.


American Humane Association. (1980). Definitions of the national study data items and response categories: Technical report#3. Denver: American Humane Association.

Crooks, C. V., & Wolfe, D. A. (2007). Child abuse and neglect. In E. J. Mash, & R. A. Barkley (Eds.), Assessment of childhood disorders (4th ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Glaser, D. (2002). Emotional abuse and neglect (psychological maltreatment): A conceptual framework. Child Abuse & Neglect, 26, 697 714.

Iwaniec, D. (2003). Identifying and dealing with emotional abuse and neglect. Child Care Practice, 9, 49 61.

Matthews, D. (2004). Child abuse sourcebook (pp. 3 39). Detroit: Omnigraphics.

Miller-Perrin, C., & Perrin, R. (2007). Child maltreatment. An introduction (2nd ed.). London: Sage.

Stirling, A. E. (2009). Definition and constituents of maltreatment in sport: Establishing a conceptual framework for research practitioners. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 43, 1091 1099.

***Contributed by Gretchen Kerr & Ashley Stirling for Hackfort, D., Schinke, R. J., & Strauss, B. (Eds.). (2019). Dictionary of sport psychology: sport, exercise, and performing arts. Academic Press.